Catalonia will declare independence from Spain in a matter of days, the leader of the autonomous region told the BBC.
In his first interview since Sunday’s referendum, Carles Puigdemont said his government would “act at the end of this week or the beginning of next”.
The region has come to a standstill after thousands of protesters took to the streets during a mass strike to protest the Spanish government’s violent crackdown on voters during the independence referendum, deemed illegal by Madrid.
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Barcelona to protest against the Spanish Government’s decision to ignore the results with most Catalans observing a day of mass strikes all over the region. In Barcelona, 700 000 marched, city police were quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.
Protesters are expected to come together in a massive rally in the city’s Plaza de la Universidad in the late afternoon.
King Felipe of Spain has accused the Catalan authorities of attempting to break “the unity of Spain”, warning that the independence movement could risk the country’s social and economic stability.
In a rare and strongly worded television address on Tuesday evening, he accused the Catalan government of “eroding the harmony and co-existence within Catalan society itself, managing, unfortunately, to divide it”.
The king’s speech was followed a BBC interview with Puigdemont in which he vowed to continue efforts to break away from Spain.
The European Commission (EC) meanwhile stated that the cases of Spain’s province of Catalonia and Serbia’s province of Kosovo and Metohija were “not comparable”.
On the same day, the EC “declared” the the Catalan independence referendum held the previous day as unconstitutional according to Spanish law.
“When it comes to recognition of Kosovo, that was a very specific context. This position was adopted by various UN declarations and various UN resolutions and the international community. A very specific context, with specific reasons,” said EC spokesman Margaritis Schinas said.
But he could give no example or explanation of the UN declarations and resolutions he had in mind – or what the “specific” issues had been. Schinas is the current Chief Spokesperson of the European Commission, and a Deputy Director-General at the Commission’s DG Communication.